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I have spent the better part of my life believing that if you are really, really nice, people eventually will be nice in return. After having been alive for over four decades, I now realize that life doesn’t work that way.  You can be kind, generous and turn the other cheek, and some people still will be rude and disrespectful to you anyway.

I don’t say this to be depressing. Understanding this fact is liberating.  There are many of us who go through life thinking, “If I just keep being nice, so-and-so will stop acting like a jerk.”  Or, “If I turn the other cheek, so-and-so eventually will stop being rude.”  And then we blame ourselves when people continue to act poorly.  We believe that if we were nicer, their behavior automatically would have changed.

If you feel that way, let me give you some news. There are people out there who are emotionally flawed.  They can be snotty, rude and unkind at the drop of a hat.  It is who they are.  Their behavior has nothing to do with you.  Their behavior is based on their moods.  If they are feeling good, they are kind and friendly.  And if they are feeling badly, they’ll insult, demean and lash out at anyone who happens to be in their line of vision.

The feelings of others are not on these people’s radar. They feel little to no guilt for hurting people.  They are only concerned with their own emotional needs.

I unfortunately have three people like that in my family. For years, I have made futile attempts to be kind and generous to them.  I’ve tried to present an example of what it means to be mature, polite and considerate, to no avail.

However, at a certain point, I realized that no matter how kind I was, these individuals were not going to change their behavior. I have come to accept that I don’t have the power to change the morals and character of others.  Neither do you.

So, where does that leave us? That leaves us relieved of feeling responsible for the poor behavior of others.  Once we come to this realization, we then have real options.  Without guilt, we can decide to stop dealing with people who are disrespectful to us.  We can be nice because we are inherently nice people.  But we can stop bending over backwards for people who don’t deserve our efforts.

I truly believe in being kind and encouraging to others at every opportunity. And I believe in being generous with my time and my money.  But my efforts should be directed toward those who truly deserve those extras from me.

My husband and my daughter are at the top of my list of people who deserve those extras. I have friends and other family members who also are supportive and kind, and who likewise merit my extra time and attention.

If you have people in your life who you’ve been trying to influence with kindness to no avail, my suggestion is to stop trying. They aren’t going to change.  Let them live in their own misery.  Instead, give your time and mental energy to the people in your life who are good to you.  Be extra-nice to those who deserve it.

(Photo Courtesy of Pexels)

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